Justin Cook and Gary Ryan Claim Cabela’s King Kat Classic at Jeffersonville, IN

Heavyweight catfish characterized the King Kat Championship on the Ohio River.

Catfish anglers from 15 states traveled to the Ohio River for Cabela’s King Kat 2018 Classic. Sixty-six teams gathered at Jeffersonville, IN to test their catfishing skills against other anglers and Mother Nature.

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Plenty of uncertainty prevailed in the Southern Indiana town in the days before the tournament. Weather conditions had caused the Ohio River to rise and give the anglers an added challenge of floating debris and strong current. The high water level challenged organizers too and the weigh-in was changed from the RiverStage to Big 4 Station Park in Jeffersonville.

Competitors were vying for $111,000 in cash and prizes including $20,000 to be distributed in the Angler of the Year competition. The winning team went home with a $60,000 Excel StormCat 230 with a new Mercury 4-Stroke, Minn Kota 36V 112 pound thrust Ulterra, Humminbird Helix 12, a full set of B’n’M Poles, a Driftmaster Rod Rack, and an X-treme Bait Tank.

Day One Results

The action started quickly on day one when a couple of teams caught good catfish early and did not want to risk the health of the fish so they came to the scales.

The team of Justin Cook and Gary Ryan took the lead on day one with 169 pounds, including Big Kat of the day at 64.9 pounds. That is the heaviest weight of a King Kat tournament all year when the one fish over 34-inch rule was in effect.

Scott Cress and Carl Crone also came to the scales early. They had a total weight 114.10 pounds to claim the second-place spot in Jeffersonville. As the weigh-in continued the team of Tom Petroski and Henry Neafus matched the 114.10-pound weight to tie for second on day one.

As the first day’s weigh-in ended the remaining top ten teams included Dale Kerns and Greg Edwards (105.90), Carl Morris Jr and Rob Parsons (101.70), Casey Tutorow and Andrew Han (101.70), Brian Thomas and Jimmy Thomas Jr (95.80), Rob Benningfield and Ricky Eiselt (87.00), Roy Harkness and Jeff Dodd (80.60), and Larry Muse, Frank Meador, and Mike Fallon (69.60).

Final Day Results

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Justin Cook and Gary Ryan held on to their day one lead to claim top honors at Cabela’s King Kat 2018 Championship. They finished the two-day tournament with 232 pounds and earned possession of the fully rigged Excel StormCat 230. They also earned the Driftmaster Bonus for another $500.

The Missouri team fished downriver on the Cannelton Pool in the Leavenworth area which they said was similar to their home waters on the Missouri River. They prefished heavily before the rains brought the river up but had to adjust and found the fish in pockets out of the main current. Cook and Ryan used skipjack to land eight fish on day one and seven fish on day two.

“Friday we could do no wrong,” reported Cook. “Never got hung up or anything. We quit fishing about noon and had two good fish and three unders. We had three other overs we had to throw back. We did not want to beat em’ up, so we left and came in early to the scales.”

“On Saturday we went to our first spot and caught four fish,” continued Cook.  “Two were little bitty dinks. We went up to our next spot where we caught the other 60 pounder yesterday. We commenced to walking bait and probably missed five really good fish. It was a sad, sad feeling. We worked really hard and replace three small fish with some 10 to 12 pounders.”

“Then on the way in we thought we were gonna’ be stuck in traffic,” said Cook. “That was scary thinking we might not make it to weigh-in. We were only 10 minutes from being done. It was a roller coaster.”

Cook and Ryan have fished together for more than 10 years. They wanted to do well, not only for the win but also for the points race. As it turned out they won it also to earn an additional $10,000.

“We just fish because we are buddies,” concluded Cook. “It is something we do because we enjoy it. If we breakeven from a fishing year we are happy. And we usually are.”

Second Place

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The runner-up spot went to Tom Petrowsky and Henry Neafus. They are a local team and used some home cooking to their advantage. They had been tied for second on day one with only four fish that weighed 114.10 pounds. They had three overs they had to throw back, but never got the other under they needed. On day two they brought an exact same total, but in five fish, to boost their two-day weight to 228.20 pounds to earn $6,000.

“We fished the McAlpine Pool,” reported Neafus. “We bumped and drifted all day with skipjack. There was a strong east wind today which usually isn’t favorable, but the fish were biting today. Yesterday was a good early bite and then it shut off. Today was a later bite. Some people caught fish early but we didn’t catch ours until late. Once we found em’ it was pretty good. We threw three over 35 inches back.”

“The fish were puking up a lot of crawfish,” revealed Nealfus. “It must have been from the flooding and going up on the banks. The high water does that. They go up on the banks and gorge on those crawfish. We were catching our fish in 30 foot of water, but the river had gone up 30 feet. You would have almost been on the bank if it were normal.”

“We just fished hard until the last minute,” concluded Neafus. “If you get over 100 pounds you have had a good day. Whatever else falls, it falls. That is all you can do.”

Third Place

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Jeff Dodd and Roy Harkness claimed the third spot fishing out of Dodd’s new Excel StormCat 230. They also landed the Big Kat of the tournament. The B’n’M Poles team moved up from ninth place on day one to post a two-day total of 213.00 pounds and earn a check for $4,500. The Big Kat weighed 71.30 pounds and earned them an additional $1,320.

Dodd and Harkness fished the Cannelton Pool near Derby, IN with the new B’n’M prototype bumping rods. They targeted fish in places where the current was less. Harkness described it as “fishable water.” They bumped in 35 to 40 feet of water using skipjack for bait and landed around 20 fish for both days.

“We drifted on day one and caught about 80 pounds,” reported Harkness. “We finally pulled off some fish we were on. We wanted to save some for day two. On day two we made a couple drifts and had about 60 pounds in the boat but couldn’t get a big bite. A barge came by and messed us up. It pushed a bunch of trash in and we left.”

“We moved to a spot where we thought we could stick a big one,” continued Harkness. “When you got Jeff in the boat there is going to be a big one come in. It is just a matter of time until he stuck that big one.”

“That fish picked the bait up but really didn’t seem like that big a fish,” recalled Dodd. “Then he headed down the river with it and we knew it was a good one. We fought him a while. He went to one side of the boat and then the other. He went up and he come down, and to be honest I really didn’t know he was as big as he was until we got him in the net and laid him in the livewell.”

“His back fin was sticking up out of the livewell,” continued Dodd. “I told Roy to push him down in there a little, and he said, ‘He is down!’ As the day weighed on me I got to wondering just what he was. Those big fish are hard to pin down on a weight. I was just fortunate to catch him.”

“I was using a large bait to get him,” admitted Dodd. “We scaled down after him trying to get some unders. We did a little math and decide we would have a shot to win it. We scaled down to some of the smallest baits I have fished with in a long, long time. Roy caught a couple right there at the end and thought it was what we needed. One of them was 1/16th of an inch too long. He might have made it real close.”

Dodd praised his new Excel StormCat.

“That boat fishes really good,” said Dodd. “And we hauled those fish a long way in that livewell and you go look at that big fish right now and he is fine.”

“The high water kind of played to our game,” offered Dodd. “That is the kind of water we fish all the time. After we looked around a couple days and figured some stuff out, we fished it like it was the Mississippi River. The trash was kinda’ bad and there was some 5 to 6 mph current, but we have that at home too.”

“It wasn’t about finding a lot of fish you could set on concluded Harkness. “We just looked for water that we could fish and we fished hard. We kept baits in the water. We didn’t move much. The main thing we do is fish. Just finding fishable water was the key.”

Fourth Place

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Carl Morris Jr. and Rob Parsons also busted the 200-pound mark. Their two-day weight of 205.60 was good for fourth place and earned them $3,500. They also placed second in the annual points race for an additional $3,500.

Morris and Parsons fished downriver in 30 feet of water. They reported both days equally good in terms of catching fish. They were targeting fish on top of humps where they used skipjack for bait. Morris stated that they could not get a bite on a head, the chunks worked best. They landed six catfish on day one and eight on day two.

Fifth Place

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Scott Cress and Carl Crone rounded out the top five with 177.40 pounds. The Kentucky team was drifting with B’n’M poles, one of which was a new prototype that will be coming out soon. They earned $2,500 for their finish. They also placed 4th in the points race to earn an additional $1,500.

The B’n’M team fished up river about 20 miles on the McAlpine Pool where they caught about 20 fish on day one but only seven on day two. They were drifting both days reporting that the fish moved out on day two.

The Remaining Top Catfish Teams

6th Place – Dale Kerns and Greg Edwards – 165.70

7th Place – Paul Cypher Jr. and Denver Zinn – 156.80

8th Place – Tim Mulvhill and Fonzi Malaikham – 152.20

9th Place – Rob Benninfield and Ricky Eiselt – 151.20

10th  Place (and 3rd in points) – Chris Souders and Nick Conaway – 138.10


Tournament director, Jeremy Coe thanked Dave Simpson and the staff at the Jeffersonville, IN Parks Department and the City of Jeffersonville for their assistance with the tournament. He also thanked the local sponsors including GoSoIN (Clark/Floyd County Convention and Tourism Bureau), Summit Media, and the Radisson Hotel.

National Sponsors

Cabela’s King Kat Tournament Trail sponsors include: Cabela’s, Adventure Products EGO Nets, RigRap, B ‘n’ M Poles, Minn Kota, Mercury Marine, Mustad Hooks, Driftmaster Rodholders, Gamma Line, Humminbird Electronics, World Fishing Network (WFN), Rippin’ Lips, Cat River Anchors, Sunsect Sunscreen & Insect Repellent, Humminbird Lakemaster Maps, Digital EFX Wraps, Tentology, Gill Rainwear, CatfishNow Digital Magazine, Whisker Wear Apparel, The Original Clearboard, Extreme Bait Systems, Katfish Clothing, and Excel Boats.

For more information on the championship and other King Kat activities visit their website at www.kingkatusa.com. Anglers can also follow the trail on the Cabela’s King Kat Facebook Page.

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